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Leoni Online: The Articles — Horror Online

1-1168516 It takes a lot to faze Tea Leoni. A few years back, the actress played second fiddle to an asteroid. Now, in Jurassic Park 3, Leoni is sharing the screen with co-stars who are a bit more fearsome and lifelike—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love having enormous co-stars,” she enthuses. “I was once a co-star to a comet, and actually that film did very well, and then of course I couldn’t lay claim to that either,” jokes the actress about her involvement in 1997’s Deep Impact. Leoni agreed to do Jurassic without seeing a script first, instead basing her decision to join the cast on director Joe Johnston’s enthusiasm—and her own enthusiasm for working with Johnston and stars Sam O’Neill and William Macy. “Joe just said, ‘Listen, you’re a mom who’s lost her 12 year old son, on an island with dinosaurs. What do you think?’ And I thought, ‘cool,’” she remembers. these guys make Chucky look like child’s play Contrary to expectations, Leoni found Jurassic was blissfully free of green screen work. Instead, the dinosaurs themselves provided enough jolts of reality. “For the most part, we were face to face with some of the most terrifying puppets,” reveals Leoni. “I mean, these guys make Chucky look like child’s play. And that made the acting easy, because when you have a – whatever it is – 6 ton, 1700 horsepower, 30-foot high creature coming at you along a track at 18 MPH, you find the fear. You find the fear quite easily, actually.” Working with the dinosaurs was a revealing experience for Leoni. “They weren’t like fun machines, but the did have personality,” she says. “These puppets are so [real]; it’s odd to even say lifelike because there’s no reference, really. No one has ever seen a moving dinosaur, but I would credit Stan Winston and his team with vivid and real imagination because you can look into each creature, even in the same species, [and see] a different personality. It wasn’t like this one’s green, or this one’s taller or this one has horns–there were different shapes to the faces, and some seem to have more smiles.”

3-3755729 Making the characters believable—even when they’re caught up in an implausible situation—is something that Leoni credits the first Jurassic Park with doing so well. “When you think about the first Jurassic Park, those kids were great and Laura Dern was great and Jeff Goldblum was great and Sam Neill was great and you gave a s—,” Leoni notes. It’s because of the characters, she adds, that “the scene in the kitchen with the kids, and the raptors is one of the most impressive scenes ever. It was incredibly well done, with the special effects with all of that metal sort of reflecting the dinosaurs, and the clanging and fear of these kids scurrying in and out of the cabinets. This was so incredible because you cared about these kids.”

4-4560712 Leoni believes that, as with its predecessor 8 years ago, Jurassic Park 3’s story and characters will reel viewers in—and that’s the key to making an effects-heavy genre film great. “We’ve got a great kid in this film – Trevor Morgan,” she says. “Bill Macy and I are playing a recently divorced couple who has lost their child. Half of that is funny and the other half isn’t–how we are going to do this, coming from being divorced and whatever that brings to the table and how we’ll have to come together in order to get our son back [and all of that].”

In spite of the fear-inducing dinosaurs on set, “everyone brought their own sense of humor and we played with it,” reports Leoni. “I had so much fun. At times the dynamic between [Bill and I], we were just playing. And then there is Michael Jeter, who is hysterical in this film.” 5-3835153

Working with director Johnston proved to be everything she’d hoped for, too. “Joe Johnston is such a great guy. He’s very calm; nothing rattles him,” Leoni says with respect. “Here he is on this enormous film, spending millions of dollars, and I never saw his feathers ruffled, I don’t think once.” She pauses for a second. “Well one time, actually, one time we were working fire and it was like there were maybe five people out on the lake holding BIC lighters; something had gone wrong and that was annoying. But it was also about 35 degrees outside and 4 o’clock in the morning, so, you know. For $80 million dollars you want more than BIC lighters,” she jokes. Although Jurassic’s location shooting included a return to the island paradise of Hawaii, Leoni was more impressed by the multi-stage operation going staged on the Universal backlot. “At one point, we probably had at least five stages going. I’ve rarely worked on a film that had more than half a stage going–so five stages is a lot of space and set ends,” she marvels at the memory. “One of the sets, the largest, is where they had really recreated the jungle, to such an extent with the lights above the trees and water and a mist being fed in that we sort of developed our own eco system, where in areas of the set it would rain.”

6-4172850 The full immersion into this alternate reality was a treat for Leoni. “As an actor, there are usually only three walls. Oftentimes, even when you’re filming a movie, they removed a wall where your camera is located,” she explains. “Here, everything was inside of these four walls and you never saw a wall from the set. It was just this dense forest; it felt like a quarter of a mile from one corner to the other.”

The experience of working on Jurassic Park 3 is one that will stay with Leoni always—distinguished not by any one particular scene, but rather by discreet moments scattered throughout the shoot. “There are memorable days to me,” she says. “Working under water with large claws pawing at me–I felt like this must be [what it’s like] to be a fish in a barrel. Being picked out of a plane by a large angry dinosaur, that stands out. And there were a few days that stood out as being very silly, where I was just, if I clocked it for about 9 to 9, all I did was run and scream. At the end of the day I’d just start laughing. I think I laughed after every scene that I screamed in because it starts to be very funny and what I enjoyed most was watching the playback of us running though fields screaming and ducking imaginary tails and swipes of paws because that’s what they are called. That’s funny, that’s very funny to watch on the playback. It would be different now that they put the big guys in, though–it won’t be so funny.”